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Reflections on the Pursuit of Perfection

It all begins with four years of political science, economics, engineering, or maybe even art and design. At this stage, we stand out from those around us. Earning straight-A’s comes easily and most of us graduate at the top of our class with a 4.0 GPA. Some might immediately turn their attention toward the LSAT while others might pursue higher education, and others still might spend several years building successful careers. No matter what events transpired between our undergrad and the decision to study law, we all spent close to four hours locked in that miserable room with one thing in mind: How close to 180 can I get? Whether law school was the plan since crawling in diapers or only a recent decision, once here, we all take it very seriously. They say that this profession is self-selecting—attracting the perfectionists, the obsessive-compulsive, the neurotic. It’s true that many of us come in with the next three years of our lives researched, analyzed, planned out to maximize the value of this opportunity. We expect that adhering to this guide without allowing for any “missteps” will lead to the perfect future. In my case, everything about the past three years failed to live up to the plans I had for myself and yet, looking back, the resulting imperfection couldn’t be more perfect.

I came here from Vancouver after working in advertising and publishing for nearly a decade. I was living in the perfect city (no offence Toronto) and while I wasn’t perfect at my job, I was still pretty damn good. Law school was just another accomplishment that I hoped to achieve with equally stellar success. This is where I let you in on a little secret: I generally don’t like doing things that I’m not very good at. Call it insecurities or just part of the type-A personality. Either way, there is a large part of me that decides which opportunities I’m willing to pursue based on my perceived likelihood of success. If you had asked me three years ago where I would be today, I would have answered with something to the effect of “working in entertainment and media law somewhere on Bay Street.” I focused specifically on IP because I never imagined that I was capable of doing anything else. I was convinced that any success I might have in law would necessarily be tied to the creative industry so I didn’t even entertain the idea of practicing in any other area. Needless to say, I spent the majority of 1L rolling my eyes and just waiting to get to the “good stuff.” Children getting hit by ice cream trucks and Aboriginal land claims were interesting issues, but would rarely make an appearance in a patent application. That being said, I still ensured that I was doing all the “right” things. My first weeks of law school involved following a checklist: sign up for CLASP, seek out a mentor, apply to the law journal, join as many clubs as are willing to have you as a member, the Lerner’s moot, and, of course, dreaded networking. The irony of my story is that the more I kept trying to do everything “right,” the more it all felt wrong to me—leading to the worry that I truly was some sort of imposter who didn’t belong here. Making matters worse was my unwavering commitment to a particular idea of what the law school experience should involve and blinding myself to anything that fell outside that vision.

 

In hindsight, my tunnel-vision did me no favours and simply prevented me from exploring opportunities that may have revealed unexpected strengths and interests hiding within me. Not until my last year did I realize that my pursuit of perfection had actually taken me further from it. In somewhat of an ironic twist, my IP intensive forced me to engage in a variety of different areas of law than IP. It was the first experience since 1L where I was involved with legal concepts outside the realm of either patents, trademarks, or copyright and it took me by surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that while it’s great to have the best-laid out plans for your future, don’t allow them to restrict you from the experiences that you never even knew you wanted. It’s fine if you’re one of those people who knows exactly what you want, exactly how to achieve it, and you just want to “git er done.” Hell, I thought I was one of you. I thought I had the perfect plan to get me through law school but, as it turns out, what I thought was perfect couldn’t be further from where I currently stand. I really, really thought I loved vanilla ice cream… and then mango madness came along and I was like, “I’m all over that shit. Sorry vanilla.”

 

Sometimes you don’t really know what perfection is until you find it in the most unlikeliest of places (applies equally to dating).